Wednesday, September 24, 2008

patience in a post-office

Leigh Hunt to. Percy B. and Mary T. Shelley

8, York Buildings, New Road,
Thursday, 12th November, 1818.

My Dear Friends,
So I find, all of a sudden, why it is you do not write to me. I sent my last letter thoughtlessly, by Mr. Ollier's box, and they tell me, to my great chagrin, that perhaps it may not have reached you yet. I had no idea of this or I should have written to you again long before; and so I should at all events, had I not been daily devoured with printers' devils, and in expectation besides of hearing from yourselves. So Shelley has been hanging his head, I fear, and saying, "Hunt is too careless," and Marina has been looking sideways, and thinking it not worth speaking about; and First Lady has consigned me over to the common character of mankind. Well, I shall sit like Patience in a post-office, and wait for one of the kindest letters in the world. What think you of my modesty as well as industry? I have been writing a Pocket-Book. The booksellers tell me it will do exceedingly well; and Shelley will be at once pleased and surprised to hear that it is my own property, and I mean to keep it so. It is entitled the Literary Pocket-Book,* or companion for the lover of art and nature, and contains a long calendar of the months, written by myself, interspersed with quotations from dead and living poets. Lists of men of original genius from the earliest times to the present, of living authors of Europe, artists and musicians, extracts from Bacon and others, and original poetry, among which I have taken the liberty ("Hunt is too ceremonious sometimes") of putting Marianne's Dream to the great delight of said Marianne, not to mention its various MS. readers. The names are not mentioned in this department of the book; but Shelley will be in good company, at least, I may speak for Keats, and Shelley will speak for some one else. I forgot, in my box letter, to allude to the criticism in the Quarterly Review upon Marina's book. Upon the whole, I congratulate her on it. They have now been abusing Keats at a furious rate ever since their abuse of Shelley, and it is pleasant, on many accounts, to see how the public disgust is increasing against them every day. I made no answer to Gifford myself, partly out of contempt, partly (I must really say) out of something bordering on a loathing kind of pity, and partly for the sake of setting an example always praised, but seldom or ever practised. I therefore instinctively paid a friend like Shelley the compliment of feeling for him, as I felt for myself; but there are limits in forbearance, especially when the task is not one of self-revenge, but of friendship; and as they have sent for his poem from Ollier's to criticise it, I mean, if they (Gifford or others) do not take warning, to buckle on my old rusty armour, and give them such a carbonado as I know I am able to give, and they most capable of feeling. I hope Ollier has told you that Shelley's book sells more and more. God bless you all, and never think angrily or doubtingly of one who is just as sensitive to the opinion of those dear to him as he despises that of the reviewers.
Most affectionately yours,

Marianne's ill but sends very best love. Bess requests to be put in by all means. Hogg, Keats, Novello, H. Robertson, and Coulson send their remembrances--Hogg especial ones. I am now resuming my drama; and am going to propose to Constable, that when I have done it I will undertake specimens of the Italian poets from Dante to Metastasio.

*The Literary Pocket Book (1819-23 C & J Ollier) - 5 vols., periodical edited by Leigh Hunt---Percy B. Shelley's poem, Marianne's Dream appeared in this periodical.
[In 1818 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus was issued (London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones, 1818) - 3 vols., and Percy Bysshe Shelley's Laon and Cythna or, The Revolution of the Golden City was issued (London: Sherwood, Neely & Jones, 1818) which was brought out in a second state with the new title The Revolt of Islam - A Poem in 12 Cantos (London: C & J Ollier, 1818).]

-from The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt / edited by his eldest son (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862) volume 1, pp. 124-26.

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